Relief from the Build Up and a reminder of the Wet

Over the last week Darwin has had some fantastic storms complete with thunder, lightning and very heavy rains….a harbinger of the Wet Season to come. This morning it was pelting down outside and blowing several metres under the roofline and through the doors. The plants love it, and will thrive from the bursts of rain over the past week, the first rain we’ve had for months (or has there been the odd sprinkle?).

Mind you, Darwin has looked pretty good this Dry Season…we had such a big Wet last year the vegetation didn’t turn brown until August. The rain here has to be seen to be believed if you’ve never lived in the tropics: huge black clouds billow through the sky and pick up speed with the wind. Meanwhile the birds are feasting on new leaves and blossoms, there seems to be white cockatoos everywhere, and the parrots are getting drunk on the umbrella tree blossoms. Time to bring out my camera….

On Saturday we went for a long drive with the family in a convoy of 4WDs, a nearly-400km round trip just for a family BBQ…go figure. The blokes went fishing for a while with the small people who were very proud to catch (and release) a couple of small barramundi, as well as the excitement of seeing some big crocs languishing in the river. En route home we stopped to inspect a new site and as we made the return sector the heavens opened and the road turned into a red-dirt floodway adding a bit of adventure to a fairly routine drive. The speed of the transformation was pretty impressive I must say.

We Darwinites have been concerned that we were in for a long unrelieved Build Up this year after a blissfully cool and delightful Dry Season (April-June) and a record Wet Season last year (December-ish to April). Why do we hate the Build Up so much? Well the humidity soars, the temperature stays around 35C during the day and usually doesn’t fall much below 28 or 29 even overnight. There’s a good reason this season is called Mango Madness. Firstly the mangoes are in full fruit so the mango-lovers are in heaven but unfortunately this is accompanied by short tempers and “crazy” behaviour as the weather gets to everyone. The tiniest thing can set put tempers on edge…sort of like road rage without the road. It is a better these days than it once would have been – at least now we have the option of air-conditioning in our houses, cars and offices. It does make me wonder how I coped with Port Moresby all those years ago when the only thing that was air-conditioned was the office.

But right now, with the rain having run of out puff, and a rain-cooled breeze blowing it’s absolutely delightful. A reminder of just why we love the Wet!

Now back to the family history trail….

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History -Week 14 -Spring

The topic posed by Amy Coffin and Geneabloggers for Week #14 is Spring.  What was spring like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc

My first thoughts on Spring are Mr Cassmob’s inevitable quote “Spring has sprung, the grass has riz I wonder where the birdies iz”…

Okay having got that out of my mind, what does Spring evoke for me? Well the answer is fairly simple, not a great deal because it’s just not a big deal in the sub-tropics or tropics where I’ve lived all my life. While it’s Spring right now in the northern hemisphere, Down Under it’s Autumn so kind of topsy turvy.

Spring in Australia falls in September-November and as these months are the end of the academic year for schools and universities, this is a busy time of the year as suddenly exams seemed all too real, whether from a student, teaching or administration perspective. (Note –our academic year matches the calendar year unlike the northern hemisphere). One feature that stands out particularly is that late Spring is when the jacaranda trees burst into flower in South-East Queensland with their magnificent purple umbrellas against the university’s sandstone buildings and a clear blue sky. When I was younger, all the year’s academic performance hinged on end-of-year exams so the jacarandas were also a timely, and scary, reminder that exams were very close. Then and now it’s also the frenetic lead-up to getting everything done for the end of the education calendar but also before Christmas and the long summer holidays hit.

Jacaranda flowers (scanned and a bit faded).

When I was a child there were only three school holiday periods a year: May, August and December-January so again Spring just didn’t get much of a look in.  However over the years we’ve moved to a semester and mid-semester holiday system. Early Spring, September, was a time our own family often went on holidays, sometimes a camping holiday as it’s a pleasant time of the year.

Spring in Darwin just doesn’t exist. These months coincide with the Build Up when the weather gets progressively more hot and humid until we all think we’ll melt and long for the monsoon rains to start! Indigenous people had more subtle variations on the seasons here with six distinct seasons – you can read more about them here. Pre-airconditioning the Build Up was known colloquially as Mango Madness time because people go somewhat crazy and in fact, there’s evidence to suggest it’s not an “urban” myth. Even in 2010/11 it’s not a great time to make important decisions as one’s patience is tried and perspectives on life are distorted. So good luck to all those who can enjoy imported or transported mangoes without the weather turning them slightly nuts! I guess I should say that mangoes were/are a food we ate in Spring but I don’t associate that from my youth although my grandparent had a huge Bowen mango tree in their back yard. They had planted it when my father was born so it has a lot of family history associations.

In the sense of Spring as a time of rejuvenation, I probably feel that in Darwin it is this transition time right now as the Dry Season comes round and we can look forward to several months with low humidity, pleasant days and nights and usually a guarantee of no rain for months. This year it’s teasing us and the Wet is just going on and on! However the dragonflies are now out in swarms, the traditional indication that the Dry is just around the corner, so let’s hope they’re right. Then it’s all blue skies, lots of concerts and events, weddings in the parks or by the water, the start of the Open Garden season and other great Top End fun. Bring it on!

Red dragonfly on a lotus flower in Bali

PS Murphy’s Law that I can’t find a photo I know I have of dragonflies in Kakadu so I’ll include a rather more exotic one I photographed in Bali a year or so ago.